Jane Austen's EMMA

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By Mandy Webster

Emma. By Jane Austen. New York, NY: Doubleday Large Print, 2004.

This book review is an excerpt from the response paper I wrote recently on Emma.

Dear Ms. Austen,

Although your work may have received excellent reviews back in 1815, I do not believe Emma is quite ready for publishing in the modern world. I realize you are attempting to be humorous with this work, but your efforts leave much to be desired. The lack of meaningful dialogue and your tendency to tell rather than show the most important passages of the story make Emma unsuitable for publishing without a great deal of revisions.

Emma is not only unlikeable, she and several of your other characters are also rather tiresome. It took a great deal of patience and fortitude for me to force myself to read the entire manuscript. If not for your previous success in the literary world (along with my requirement to read this book for a class,) I likely would have put the manuscript aside halfway through the first chapter.

Mr. Woodhouse, for example, is tiresome not only to his son-in-law, but also to the reader. If you mean for him to be humorous, you have failed. Consider for me, what can be done to make him amusing to the modern reader? There are several passages in Emma which could be made humorous through the addition of witty dialogue and ‘shown’ action. All too often, your humorous situations are told so quickly, the humor is lost.

Emma is amused at “the blunders which often arise from the partial knowledge of circumstances of the mistakes which people of high pretensions to judgment are forever falling into” (p. 136). This single sentence fully sums up Emma’s very situation. This is perhaps the defining statement of your entire manuscript. You must revise to heighten this theme.

While there are several scenes within this manuscript which could be considered comic, the action and feeling are not present enough for the comedy to come through to the reader without more work than the modern reader is prepared to do. To succeed in the modern world, you must understand that the modern reader wants to think as little as possible.


Amanda L. Webster